Located in a spacious valley along the river Kholongchu, the quiet settlement of Trashiyangtse town, also know as Choeten Kora town, has been growing. The giant Boudhanath-style choeten stands as one of the unique features of the town. Here an old man has made home.
Kencho Tshering, 73, from Kechingdung village, remembers the once rocky valley that was pretty much barren. He is one of the few residents of the town who have seen the transformation the dzongkhag has undergone over the years.
“Most of the upper part of the town was filled with boulders. The rest were grassland,” said Kencho Tshering. “There were a few bamboo huts.”
A gigantic flood some thousand years ago washed away all the settlement in the area. This is the story Kencho Tshering, as a child, heard from his grandparents. “That’s the history. If we look at the huge boulders here, how big the flood was.”
Kencho Tshering got married when he was 11 years old. At 17, he visited Arunachal Pradesh to trade goods for the first time.
“It was a bad timing then. The locals were in conflict and war was looming in the air,” he said. “It was for the first time I heard a gunshot in my life.”
Kencho Tshering was conscripted into the army at the age of 23. For the next 25 years, he travelled from one place to another with his unit.
“Once in a while I got to come home. Every time I came back I saw many developmental activities taking place,” he said. Houses and buildings had started to mushroom.
While he was away, he couldn’t see his children grow. His wife left him and his parents had passed away. “I missed a lot of things while I was away. I regret it now, but then there wasn’t much I could do about it then.”
Kencho Tshering can be seen most of the time here, doing the rounds of the choeten. He spends about eight hours here. He recalls how the kora, the festival at the choeten used to be then.
“We used to hold the hands of young girls and go round the choeten. We’d spend hours teasing girls,” he said. Men would sing to girls.
“Many of my friends got married this way here. It was a rural courtship unique to this place. Those were good days,” said Kencho Tshering.
And there would be fights. “And so the name of the river – Kholongchu – meaning fighting river.”
It has been decades since Kencho Tshering started doing the rounds of the choeten. There were eight of them. Now only four remain.
“We lost our friends some years ago. The rest of us will soon follow them. But until our time comes, it is a good life,” said Kencho Tshering. “This is the place where my grandparents and parents met. This is the place where my children and grandchildren come to pray.”
He looks lost, staring mid-distance at nothing in particular: “And this is the place from where I shall leave this world.”
Younten Tshedup | Trashiyangtse